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Taipower assessing completion time, cost of fourth nuclear power plant

2012/02/17 20:17:12

Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) State-owned Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) said Friday that it is assessing the time needed to complete the partially built fourth nuclear power plant and its total cost amid reports that the project could eventually cost more than NT$330 billion (US$11.16 billion).

Taipower was responding to a report by local daily the Liberty Times that said the utility may inject an additional NT$56.3 billion into the project.

That would bring the plant's total cost to NT$330 billion, 94 percent higher than the original budget of NT$169.7 billion approved by the Executive Yuan in 1992.

The plant's commercial operation will also be postponed until 2016 at the earliest, the report said.

Taipower chief engineer Hsu Yung-hua said the utility must assess how long it will take to complete the project before it can decide how much more investment is needed.

"We have no substantive figures right now," Hsu said. But "as the cost was increased to about NT$273.7 billion the last time there was a fund injection, the eventual cost cannot avoid reaching NT$300 billion after another increase in investment."

Hsu said Taipower will have to spend an additional NT$400 million to NT$600 million for every month the project is delayed.

The engineer dismissed charges that the facility will end up being the world's most expensive nuclear power plant, citing a project recently approved by the U.S. that is projected to have an even higher price tag.

Hsu stressed that the company will consider safety and the assessments of experts at home and abroad to complete the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant as soon as possible.

The project was launched in 1999, but its progress has been affected by the suspension and resumption of construction due to changes of administrations and their policies.

Following a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami last March, Taipower stepped up safety measures at the fourth nuclear power plant, preventing the plant from opening as planned at the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, a legislator of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said Friday that allocating more funds to the fourth nuclear power plant does not live up to a pledge made by President Ma Ying-jeou to gradually decrease Taiwan's use of nuclear power.

Pan Men-an, a DPP caucus whip, said his party would make "the promotion of a draft nuclear-free homeland act" as its top priority.

Lin Hung-chih, a caucus whip of the ruling Kuomintang, denied that the president has reneged on his pledge to cut the use of nuclear power.

Ma wants to begin commercial operation of the fourth nuclear power plant after its safety is assured so that Taiwan's first and second nuclear power plants, which began operating roughly three decades ago, can be phased out in stages, according to Lin.

(By Huang Chiao-wen, Sherry Tang and Lilian Wu)
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